The holidays can often bring up mixed emotions. It can be a pleasant time of year in which we celebrate with loved ones and enjoy time with friends and family, and it can also be a reminder of loved ones loss or unpleasant memories stemming back to a less than ideal childhood of dysfunctional family dynamics. Developmental or childhood trauma often involves abuse or neglect from the very people who are “supposed” to protect and love us the most; our primary caregivers. The holidays can be a powerful reminder of what might have been missing from our own childhood. If you are a survivor of childhood trauma and the holidays are a “trigger” for you here are some helpful tips to help make the holidays a little easier.
Manage your stress - for most of us, the holidays are a stressful time, but if you are suffering from childhood trauma, then it is even more important to manage your stress levels. Skip the long lines by shopping online at places like amazon.com. If you are hosting, keep things simple and easy. Don’t feel as if you need to “over do” it in order to impress others at the expense of your own emotional health.
Watch your boundaries - often times we feel obligated to spend the holidays with people who may have hurt or abused us in the past. This can place us right back in the unhealthy dynamics that we escaped from. Do not be afraid to say “no” to relatives if the dynamics are unhealthy for you.
Start your own traditions - “family” can be anyone whom you trust and feel close to. This might be your biological family, or maybe a close group of friends. Spend your time with the people you enjoy. It will make the holidays more pleasant.
Gratitude - It can be difficult at times to find things to be grateful for, especially when life has been tough. However, this is when we need gratitude the most. Find gratitude in the little things; that you have a warm home during the holidays, that you are fortunate enough to have a nice meal, that you are safe.
Work towards forgiveness - Many people have misconceptions as to what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness is NOT about excusing past misconduct or offenses or letting people “off the hook” for wrong doing. Forgiveness is about letting go of your own suffering and anger. Not forgiving those who have hurt you in the past, only affects you. Remember, forgiveness can be a long process and does not happen all at once. The holidays are a good time to forgive and let go of the past hurts that still effect you. Even if it is just a little bit at a time, continue to work towards forgiveness.
The most important thing this time of year is spending time with those you love. If you find it difficult to love yourself, please always remember that help is available. It is never too late to take the first steps in healing old wounds and learning to love yourself more.